DARRYL P. CONNELLY, Plaintiff-Appellant,
METROPOLITAN ATLANTA RAPID TRANSIT AUTHORITY, CHERYL KING, Defendants-Appellees
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. D.C. Docket No. 1:11-cv-02108-TWT.
For DARRYL P. CONNELLY, Plaintiff - Appellant: Daniel Marc Klein, Steven Eric Wolfe, The Buckley Law Firm, LLC, ATLANTA, GA.
For METROPOLITAN ATLANTA RAPID TRANSIT AUTHORITY (MARTA), Defendant - Appellee: John R. Lowery, Mozley Finlayson & Loggins, LLP, ATLANTA, GA; LaShanda Renae Dawkins, MARTA Law Department, ATLANTA, GA.
For CHERYL KING, Defendant - Appellee: John R. Lowery, Janine D. Willis, Mozley Finlayson & Loggins, LLP, ATLANTA, GA.
Before PRYOR, Circuit Judge, WOOD,[*] Chief District Judge, and EDENFIELD,[**] District Judge.
PRYOR, Circuit Judge.
The main issue in this appeal is whether the district court erred when it entered a judgment as a matter of law based on inconsistent jury verdicts. Darryl Connelly, a white male, appeals a judgment in favor of his former employer, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, and against his complaint of racial discrimination and retaliation. Connelly worked for the Transit Authority for several years, but soon after the Transit Authority hired
Cheryl King, a black female, as Connelly's supervisor, the Transit Authority fired Connelly on the ground that his services were no longer needed. Connelly sued the Transit Authority and King for racial discrimination and retaliation for protected activity. Before trial, the district court granted summary judgment against Connelly's claims of racial discrimination. At a trial of Connelly's claims of retaliation, the jury returned verdicts against the Transit Authority and in favor of King. The district court then granted judgment as a matter of law in favor of the Transit Authority on the ground that the jury verdicts were inconsistent. But the district court erred. To determine whether to grant a judgment as a matter of law, the district court should have considered only the sufficiency of the evidence in support of the verdict, not the consistency of that verdict with another. We vacate the judgment as a matter of law in favor of the Transit Authority and remand for the district court to reinstate the jury verdict against the Transit Authority for retaliation. We also affirm the summary judgment against Connelly's claim of discrimination against King.
We describe the facts by reviewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Connelly. Connelly became an employee of the Transit Authority as a manager of property development in 2002, and the Transit Authority promoted him to director of transit-oriented development in 2006. He held that position until the Transit Authority fired him in 2009.
Connelly worked for four different supervisors at the Transit Authority before King became his supervisor. Three of those four supervisors were black, and the fourth supervisor was Hispanic. Each supervisor evaluated Connelly's work performance as either satisfactory or above, and none expressed concerns about his work performance. One supervisor presented him with an appreciation award and a journal in which she and other supervisors complimented his work performance. And the Transit Authority awarded merit-based pay increases to Connelly beginning in 2007. Connelly's last evaluation before King became his supervisor praised his integrity, leadership ability, decision making, and communication.
But other employees criticized Connelly's work performance. Coworkers complained that Connelly was not prompt and that paperwork often sat on his desk for a long period of time. They also thought he had a hard time making decisions and that, when new management came to the Transit Authority, he was inflexible and resistant to change.
Connelly's work environment changed after Dr. Beverly Scott, a black female, became the new chief executive officer of the Transit Authority. As Connelly describes her management, Scott brought a " [r]acial [a]genda" to the Transit Authority. And when Scott hired King in 2008 as Connelly's supervisor, Connelly and King butted heads from the get-go. King pressured Connelly to complete assignments promptly and often chastised him for taking actions with which she disagreed. And she quickly began to hear complaints about Connelly from other employees and outside vendors.
On three occasions soon after King joined the Transit Authority, King referred to herself as a " mean black bitch" in Connelly's presence. On the first occasion, Connelly and a white consultant briefed King on a project and explained that they were behind, but could still meet their deadline. King was upset by that news and ...